What Lurks Below

Last month, London sewage workers discovered an enormous greaseball blocking the pipes in the Whitechapel neighborhood, creating a nasty situation and limiting water flow. The ball, weighing 130 tons, took 3 weeks for workers to break down using high-pressure water jets. It was made of a combination of hardened grease and fat from food production as well as wet wipes, diapers, and other non-flushables that had been flushed down the toilet. Experts say that if the ball had not been caught when it was, waste could have started to burst from manholes and flow through the streets of London. Watch the London Fatberg in action here.

It’s not just London that’s in danger of having its sewage system ruined by improper waste disposal; many towns and cities may have greaseballs lurking beneath them, too! So how can we make sure our pipes are functional and our streets stay feces-free? There are many things we can do in our kitchens and restaurants to dispose of cooking grease, fats, and oils the right way and keep our pipes flowing smoothly, especially as the holidays approach!

  1. Make sure to let the grease cool before either pouring it in the trash or into a storage container.
  2. Once you’ve poured out the grease properly, make sure to wipe out your pots and pans with a paper towel to remove any grease that might be stuck to your cookware. Be sure to do the same with plates!
  3. Check if your municipality has a grease recycling program like Durham, which accepts and recycles cooking oil free of charge.
  4. As for toilets, remember that only toilet paper should be flushed. Most wet wipes are not meant to go through our pipes and sanitary napkins and tampons should never be flushed either. We are fortunate that our sewage treatments systems are top-notch, but that doesn’t mean we should overload them. When in doubt, throw it out!

 

The Importance of Infrastructure in the face of Natural Disasters

Continuing with our lead-up to “Imagine a Day Without Water”, this post focuses on the recent disaster-related impacts of failing infrastructure from Hurricanes Maria and Irma, some of the most powerful storms to hit the United States in many years. There is currently a capital need of $123 billion per year to close the gap between increasing demand and decreasing maintenance of water infrastructure – and this gap is widening every day.

At the intersection of both negligence and disaster-caused infrastructure lies Puerto Rico. The country, recently hit by Hurricane Maria, has very little functioning infrastructure, and many residents will be without power for up to six months. Therefore, they are without access to water and sewer infrastructure as well. Seeing as Maria was the strongest storm to hit Puerto Rico in almost 80 years, it would be easy to assume that the current infrastructure issues are the result of the unprecedented storm. However, as Dr. Yarimar Bonilla, Rutgers professor and Puerto Rican native, points out in a recent NPR segment, the problem started long before with the government’s decision to prioritize paying off debt rather than performing basic maintenance on the country’s electric, water, and wastewater systems. She notes that much of the damage could have been avoided if the proper maintenance work had been done when it was necessary. Now, with the addition of the storm damage, the issue is much more difficult (and costly) to solve. Listen to the full podcast here.

In Florida, Hurricane Irma overloaded local infrastructure, causing physical damage and health risks. Raw sewage and wastewater flooded the streets as a result of failed pumping stations and backed up sewers. Due to overwhelmed and under-maintained infrastructure, rebuilding will take even longer, as efforts can only begin when the area is “clean, dry, and free from potential health hazards.” The situation in Florida points to the necessity of designing infrastructure systems to fit local needs, such as extreme weather. Read more about the affects of Hurricane Irma on infrastructure here.

Keeping our natural waterways clean is important, but so is making sure our manmade water systems stay so as well. Make sure your local, state, and federal officials know you value investing in our nation’s infrastructure!

Safe, Reliable Water – At Risk!

This blog post was provided by the Value of Water Campaign, which works to promote awareness of the importance of clean drinking water access, and leads the Imagine a Day Without Water efforts. http://thevalueofwater.org/

With all the division in our government, it is easy to forget there are some policy priorities that actually cut across party lines and geographical boundaries. Constituents may have different opinions on health care and tax reform, but they have a lot in common too. They get up in the morning and brush their teeth, use the bathroom, and make coffee. Many of them commute to school or work. They travel with their families on summer vacations and for holidays. They buy groceries and eat at restaurants.

When it comes to the essentials, we really do have more that unites us than divides us, which is why the majority of Americans want the federal government to prioritize investing in infrastructure. Earlier this year, voters were polled on what they wanted the federal government to focus on for a legislative agenda. By a double-digit margin, investment in infrastructure was the most important topic above any other issue. Two thirds of voters said so. And an astonishing 82 percent of Americans said water infrastructure needed to be a top priority. Eighty-two percent of Americans can’t even agree on what day of the week it is!

But if you think about it, water unites all of us. Of course people say it should be a priority. Can you even begin to imagine a day without water? It isn’t just your personal use of water – brushing your teeth, flushing your toilet, taking a shower – though those rituals are vital. Water is also essential to a functioning economy. What is a college campus or a hotel supposed to do if there is no water? They close. How can a restaurant, coffee shop, or brewery serve customers without water to cook, make coffee and beer, or wash the dishes? They can’t. And what about manufacturers – from pharmaceuticals to automobiles – that rely on water? They would grind to a halt too.

An economic study released by the Value of Water Campaign earlier this year found that a single nationwide day without water service would put $43.5 billion of economic activity at risk. But investing in water infrastructure, unfortunately, has not been a priority for decades. The federal government’s investment has declined precipitously, leaving states, localities, and water utilities to make up the difference. Which means it is on localities to raise taxes, or for utilities to charge water rates that can pay for the massive infrastructure system of pumps, plants, and pipes. And the truth is, communities across the country have let those systems deteriorate for far too long.

We saw the tragedy in Flint, Michigan where thousands of residents were affected by tainted water supplies. Water systems in other communities are under threat too, and millions of Americans live in regions that completely lack water infrastructure.

There is no doubt about it – a day without water is a crisis. That is why we are joining with hundreds of groups across the country for Imagine a Day Without Water, because we want people to pay attention to our water systems. This country can do great things, and if 82 percent of Americans agree on something it must be important. Water is a public health issue, it is an economic issue. No community can thrive without water, and every American deserves a safe, reliable, accessible water supply. Let’s demand better, and make sure no American ever has to imagine a day without water again.

As the third annual “Imagine A Day Without Water” approaches on October 12th, we invite you view this video from the Value Water Campaign and imagine how your life would be impacted if we did not have ready access to safe, reliable, and affordable drinking water in this country.

Get Ready for A Day Without Water!

No, we’re not shutting off the pipes. CWEP and our member counties and municipalities are gearing up for A Day Without Water, an annual awareness event run by the Value of Water Campaign, or VWC. The VWC works to educate people about how much water they use and how we can get smarter about our water usage so that “a day without water” can be a pithy title, not reality.

Wanna get started on the fun? Head over to the water calculator to see how much water your household uses in a day. The results may surprise you! And if you do find the number as shocking as we did, no need to worry! The calculator gives you tips and tricks on how to save water — and the planet.

If you’re looking for a more hands-on approach and want to better understand how the water from your faucet gets there, consider booking a tour at a water and wastewater treatment plant in Raleigh, Durham, or Hillsborough. You can also check with your local plant for their tour options. Tours are free of charge and range from 1 to 3 hours. It’s a great after school activity! Make sure to act fast, however, as tour requests typically must be made at least two weeks in advance (so if you want to go on A Day Without Water, you’ll need to request a tour by Thursday, September 28th!).

We’ll be posting in the coming weeks about more ways you can get involved, but if you just can’t wait to learn more, you can check out more information who’s participating and the event itself on the website.

You can learn more about the VWC here.

Spotlight on Garner: Stormwater Program of the Month

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month we’re focusing on Garner, a tiny town with a huge commitment to stormwater management. Check out their unique solutions and exciting community events below!
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Volunteers Needed!

Help keep Garner Clean & Green!
 
Who: The Town of Garner
What: Semi-annual street and stream cleanup
When: Saturday, September 16 from 9-11am
Where: White Deer Park, 2400 Aversboro Road, Garner, NC 27529
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Breakfast, cleanup supplies, and water provided free of charge to all volunteers. Contact Jaclyn Sumner for more information about the event.

 
Did you know?
Town of Garner received the 2017 NC Source Water Protection Award of Excellence along with PEG Media partners, which help direct, film and edit all of Garner’s informative stormwater videos. Garner has been making these videos for several years, helping residents know what they can do to help keep our water supply clean and free from pollutants. Check out the videos at these links:
 
Water Quality:
 
Pet Waste:
 
Illicit Discharge:
 
 Little Town, Big Success
 
Garner prides itself on being a small town with a reputation for being customer friendly, but did you know they have a top-notch storm water program as well? For over 30 years, Garner has been performing stormwater management and watershed planning to protect local waterways and Lake Benson from pollutants and downstream flooding. New and innovative stormwater control measures have been designed and built on town properties and both new and redevelopment. This commitment to responsible stormwater management can be seen at parks such as White Deer and Lake Benson as well as on the new Town Hall campus.
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Help us keep up the good work by coming out to the semi-annual street and stream cleanup! We’ll be picking up litter that would otherwise flow into Lake Benson and pollute our drinking water. Contact Jaclyn Sumner for further information.
 
Questions? We’re here for you
For more information or specific questions, please contact Jaclyn Sumner, Stormwater Program Administrator in the Town of Garner Engineering Department (p) 919-773-4421|jsumner@garnernc.gov

Stormwater Program of the Month – Raleigh!

Each month we will be featuring the outstanding work that our CWEP Partners are doing to keep our stormwater clean around the region and in your communities. This month features the City of Raleigh Stormwater Management Division, which is part of the City’s Engineering Department. Check out their great programs and opportunities below!

Stormwater Monitoring Workshop

Discover Raleigh’s Streams This Summer!

Learn how you can explore and keep a stream in your neighborhood clean by taking part in the Stormwater Management Division’s upcoming Stream Monitoring Workshop on Saturday, Aug. 19, from 10 a.m. to noon at Walnut Creek Wetland Center, 950 Peterson Street, Raleigh.  You will learn four easy steps to collecting samples from a stream that will help the City of Raleigh track the health of local waterways. The workshop is free for Raleigh residents and includes year-long monitoring supplies. Learn more and register online at http://www.raleighnc.gov/home/news/content/CorNews/Articles/StreamMonitoring.html

Stormwater Video Award Winners

This year’s recipients of the City of Raleigh Stormwater Management Division’s Streams & Stormwater Video Competition were named at the 2017 Environmental Awards, a ten-year celebration of individuals and organizations who display a commitment to protecting the environment and promoting sustainability.

Congratulations to Julian Simoes (1st place – “Be the Change”); Chloe Wen and her classmates (2nd place – “Cup of H2O”); and Jacob Fletcher, Carla Fuller, and Anton Baeza (3rd place – “Chaplin’s Lament”)!

Stormwater Successes in Raleigh

The City of Raleigh is always advancing their stormwater management in innovative, effective, and sustainable ways. Here are some highlights of this great program!

  • The City’s Drainage Assistance Program plans to complete more projects over the next two years that address drainage concerns on private property. A recent policy change also eliminated the cost-share portion of the program making it more affordable for Raleigh residents.
  • The Capital Improvement Program will nearly $24 million worth of projects over the next year to offer sustainable stormwater infrastructures in Raleigh’s neighborhoods that reduce flooding and limit erosion.
  • Additional Flood Hazard Mitigation Efforts continue to remove and restore flood-prone properties that were built prior to the current floodplain development regulations. Restoring the area to green space improves public safety in flood-prone areas and once again allows for natural function of the floodplain.
  • Green Stormwater Infrastructure efforts continue to establish policies, procedures, and resources that will include Green Stormwater Infrastructure in new development and redevelopment and bring innovative stormwater treatment options to the City of Raleigh.

For more information or specific questions, please contact Kristin Freeman, Communications Specialist for the City of Raleigh Stormwater Management Division (p) 919-996-4128 | (c) 919-817-4594 | kristin.freeman@raleighnc.gov

 

 

How Washing your Car at Home Contributes to Stormwater Pollution

Check out this great video from Wellington Water in New Zealand about how to keep your car wash activities from polluting our water! All communities face the same stormwater challenges we do, so we can all learn from each other when it comes to cleaning up. Take a look and see what you can do differently this summer to reduce your stormwater impact, and tell your friends and neighbors when you see them washing their cars!

When it comes to stormwater pollution, sharing is NOT caring!

Our everyday activities can really contribute to stormwater pollution if we aren’t careful. Trash, litter, pet waste, sediment, fertilizers, oil, you name it – it can end up in the storm drain and on its way to the nearest stream before you know it! Of course, that pollution can have a major impact on the fish and other animals that live in those streams, ponds, and rivers where the pollution ends up. What would happen if the fish could tell us they didn’t appreciate us sharing our dirty stormwater with them?

Check out the video below to see what happened when Jonny Fishpatrick was fed up with the stormwater pollution being dumped in his home, and imagine how this could be happening in your neighborhood!

Did you know that good old fashioned dirt is actually a MAJOR stormwater pollutant?!

What happens to dirt in stormwater?

When soil, dirt, sand, clay, or other tiny bits of earth end up in stormwater, we then call it “sediment” because those pieces can eventually settle out to the bottom of a body of water. However, moving water such as stormwater runoff through our neighborhoods and cities keeps the sediment from settling and can cause serious problems for water quality.

What does sediment do in the environment?

Sediment pollution creates many issues in the environment; here are just a few!

  • Clogs fish gills and suffocates small insects and other animals;
  • Creates murky, cloudy water that blocks sunlight from reaching plants;
  • Transports hundreds of other chemicals and pollutants to our drinking water that are hitching a ride on the sediment;
  • Encourages growth of toxic algae that can make people and animals sick;
  • Completely changes the course of a river or stream by depositing new banks!

What can we do to reduce stormwater pollution from sediment?

Sediment can come from many sources, such as construction sites or digging, erosion when vegetation has been removed, and even just dust and grime from your driveway, car, and sidewalk. You can help keep this dirt from getting in our streams and rivers by sweeping up instead of hosing down!

If you see muddy brown water being deliberately sent into the storm drain like in the photo below, or if you see lots of sediment coming from a construction site, call your local water department (contact info here) and let them know right away.

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